The adorable props are set, a first birthday candle has been bought, the balloons tied to the mailbox gently sway, and gifts are being collected on the beautifully decorated table.

And your baby will remember none of it.

Let’s face it. The one-year-old’s birthday is an event that truly honors the parents or caregivers who kept the child alive through the craziest year that will ever be in his entire life. Through first breaths in this world to first giggles to tear-filled nights, that baby goes through the most change in her body she will ever endure, and so yes, a celebration must be in order. But perhaps think about these alternative and creative ways to celebrate the first birthday, other than the all-too-cliché, but still very amusing, cake-smashing.

ways to celebrate 1 year birthday dolan 6 first birthday

6 Ways to Celebrate Your Baby’s First Birthday Sans Cake Smashing

1. Host a Party… For Yourself

Organize a party or get together to celebrate you keeping a human alive for a year, and invite the tribe of friends and family that helped you through it. Because, come on, we all know it takes a village. If you don’t even want to host a party at all, modify this option by finding a babysitter and celebrating you and your partner during a date night, or simply getting together with your closest friends for a wine night.

ways to celebrate 1 year birthday dolan 5 first birthday

2. Take Photos Throughout the Year

On each “monthiversary” of that first year, take a photo of yourself holding your baby with the same background each time. Even better, have the parent holding the baby wear the same thing each time, and let the child just be in a diaper. This elevates that traditional baby-lying-down-on-a-blanket monthly picture and shows off your baby’s growth a lot more.

ways to celebrate 1 year birthday dolan 1 first birthday

3. Create a Personal Email Account

Open up a personal email account for your child just before, or when, he is born. Throughout his life and until a pre-determined time, such as his 18th birthday, send emails to that account as a way to commemorate different things that happened you want him to remember. Then give him the password at that predetermined time.

Don’t like the electronic route? You can modify this by writing your child letters in sealed envelopes and storing them in a special box that is given to him whenever you decide.  

ways to celebrate 1 year birthday dolan 7 first birthday

4. Make a Time Capsule

If the new baby has older siblings, this could be a fun activity for the whole family. Gather a bunch of different items that reflect the baby’s first year, and also are unique to that exact year, such as music that was popular or fashion trends. Store the items somewhere secret, and wait to open it until the child turns 18, gets married, or any other special moment of your choosing.

5. Plant a Tree

Purchase and plant a tree on your child’s first birthday and watch the two grow together! Take a picture of the child in front of the tree each year as a unique measuring growth chart, instead of the classic wall photo. As nomads, this may seem like a ridiculous suggestion for military families, but this could also be a fun way to literally drive down memory lane and drive by that old house to see how big that tree has grown. Another option is to plant the tree at Grandma’s house, or even simply start the tree in a pot!

6. A Dr. Seuss Birthday

Gift your baby a Dr. Seuss book each year. Because there are so many of these books, you can be assured you won’t run out of ideas. As the child gets older, you will have to get more creative with how you tie in the subject matter, but this tradition can culminate with the final book being “Oh the Places You’ll Go” to create that perfect, tear-jerking moment at graduation.

No matter which options you choose, even the photo-worthy cake-smashing, the important thing is that you make memories that your baby can look back on and see exactly how much he or she is loved.

Check out this article on How My Baby Helped Me Make Friends

6 ways to celebrate babys first birthday that arent a cake smash


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Photo credits: Renee Dolan Photography

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A journalist and teller of stories by day and introvert by night, Renee lives her life always trying to find a balance between the two. In the middle, she is a sports enthusiast, social media guru, lover of candid snapshots and daily dazzled by both her charming husband and always-entertaining baby boy. With her sense of adventure satisfied through her marriage to a Marine Corps aviator, she has enjoyed living in multiple cities but is currently rooted in San Diego, California, spending weekends with the dolphins and sea lions on her paddleboard, circled around a beach bonfire with her church community group,or cozied upon the couch with her little family, a Redbox movie and pizza. You can discover more of her journey as a military spouse on her blog, Chasing Proverbs. Instagram: @redeemed36


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